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Grad Students Can’t Avoid Stress—But We Can Choose a Healthy Lifestyle

By Megan Weiner, Walden University

Burnout—especially in the field of mental health counseling and among other counseling fields—is an ongoing problem and concern for many of us in graduate school. In fact, research on a stress-management course on counselors-in-training show that we graduate students are often more prone to burning out than undergraduate students are due to the nature of the coursework, according to the findings, which appeared in the March 2012 issue of Counselor Education And Supervision. 

We grad students usually cannot avoid the typical sources of our stress, which include student loans from a previous degree, marriage, children, full-time enrollment, and full-time employment. We also face the challenges of earning the advanced degree itself as well as complying with the state regulations necessary to become licensed. 

Since stress is a given in graduate studies, stress management is certainly one piece of the puzzle on how to avoid burnout. But even more important is learning to recognize the symptoms and—instead of simply pushing forward through our studies—finding specific ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle amid the chaos of graduate school and life in general.

To understand and reduce the symptoms of stress, which can lead to burnout, embrace the following activities:

  • Self-healing through coming into the present moment. Taking time out of our day to take care of ourselves is the most important thing we can do to reduce stress. Not only does it allow us a chance to regroup, but it allows us to be in the present moment instead of worrying about what lies ahead.
  • Meditating. A simple way of learning how to be in the present is meditation.
  • Staying calm.
  • Setting reasonable boundaries. By allowing ourselves to set boundaries with others, we not only allow ourselves distance, but also allow for a positive relationship to be formed.
  • Exercising. Personally, I hate exercising, but I have to say that I notice a significant difference in my stress levels when I do workout. Make it easier on yourself—and more fun—by choosing a form of exercise that you enjoy. If you are doing something you dislike, you will procrastinate or not follow through. Hiking, dancing, swimming, basketball, or walks are all great forms of exercise.
  • Resting! Rest plays an important part in reducing stress and though it’s an obvious stress-reducer, it’s often ignored. How many times have we graduate students fulfilled some of our other obligations at the expense of our rest. How many of us routinely get enough sleep? By adjusting our schedules and starting earlier on those assignments, we can make room for the restorative rest that our bodies and our minds need.

Even if you can’t take up all of these healthy behaviors right away, choose a healthy lifestyle and do whichever ones you can. 

And as your graduate student career progresses, remember to relax, and take a deep breath!

Take on a Leadership Position in 
AMHCA’s Graduate Student Ccommittee (GSC)

Beginning in August, leadership positions on AMHCA’s Graduate Student Committee are open for the 2013–2014 fiscal year. 

The following positions on the GSC are open to student members of AMHCA who have at least one more year of coursework to complete and who would like to volunteer and commit approximately six hours per month to GSC committee work:

  1. Secretary
  2. Midwest Region Liaison (must live in AMHCA’s Midwest Region, which includes: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin)
  3. North Atlantic Region Liaison (must live in AMHCA’s North Atlantic Region, which includes: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, andVermont)
  4. Western Region Liaison (must live in AMHCA’s Western Region, which includes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming)

If you are interested in any of these leadership positions or have any questions about them, please contact either:

  • GSC Chair Cheryl D’ La Rotta at, or
  • GSC Chair-Elect April Krowel at

Contribute to the Graduate Student Silent Auction

At this year’s Annual Conference in July, the Graduate Student Committee will be raising funds again. Thanks for your donations over the past years and for your support this year!  

The GSC is seeking charitable donations of goods or services, including but not limited to, jewelry, books, regional or national spa/salon services, regional or national restaurant gift cards, regional or national shopping gift cards, regional or national bookstore gift cards, and anything else that you think could bring bids. 

For example, Deb Legge, PhD, CRC, LMHC, an AMHCA member who writes articles for AMHCA’s Library on The Business of Private Practice, is donating 10 mini-mentoring sessions that she’ll conduct at the Annual Conference in July.

Looking forward to seeing you in July!